The Board of the Toolstation Western League are disappointed to confirm that talks between the South West Peninsula League and the Football Association, concerning the creation of the new Western Peninsula League, have now ended. All Western League Clubs must understand that this means next season’s Step 5 competition will continue across the current geographical footprint, from Cornwall to South Gloucestershire.
We had hoped that the intervention of the Football Association, under the leadership of an independent chairperson, would have led to further talks on February 22nd, but yesterdays statement makes it clear that not only have the South West Peninsula League withdrawn from this process, the FA have no desire to engage in proactively addressing the economic challenges our Clubs currently face with travel. The breakdown in negotiations between the two leagues came about entirely through a differing philosophy on how administration should be handled, how many roles it was appropriate for one individual to fulfil and how many individuals were genuinely interested in assuming responsible functions within the new structure. Mistakes may well have been made on both sides, but the Board of the Western League wish to place on record our unerring commitment to representing the best interest of our Clubs and football across the South West.
Whilst we had been consistent in our commitment to the merger project, the FA had requested an alternative solution to managing the challenges posed by long distance travel. The Board proposed a plan to split the Premier Division into two geographical areas as an interim measure for 2023/24 season, in order to reduce Clubs travel. At the same time, we were told that the South West Peninsula League had submitted a proposal to create their own Step 5 division, across the southern region originally planned for the Western Peninsula League. Both proposals have been rejected by the FA.
In the short term, the Board remain resolute in our belief that Clubs competing in the Western League Premier Division must have their travel requirements addressed before next season and we recognise the financial concern that the current uncertainty will inevitably cause. The Board welcome the FA’s proposal to consult Clubs on the future of Step 5 and 6 football in the South West and with this in mind the Western League will be conducting our own engagement exercise to ensure that all options are properly considered. The League will issue a short survey to all our Clubs to ascertain their views and this will be followed by a meeting.
Addressing the issue of The FA Leagues Committee’s “huge disappointment in the breakdown of the relationship between the two Leagues and individuals thereof”, the Western League Board are in no need of reminding that it is the Clubs we represent that will feel the greatest impact of this outcome. The Board of the Western League refute that they are culpable for the breakdown of negotiations.
The letter sent by the FA concerning the collapse of the Merger can be found here.